Orion Shall Rise

Anyone who has known me through a long view, knows of my passion around the space program, and the profound disappointment that the future in space that I was promised as a child hasn’t bourn the fruit expected.

Today, we humans took just a baby step farther along the path.  And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring tears to my eyes.

This is huge stuff.  Big huge stuff.  Orion was better than 3500 miles up, making it the first space vehicle designed for human flight to go to high in forty years!

It’s a very arguable point, but I still contend that the best thing mankind undertook in the last century was when JFK put us in the position “of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” in the 1960’s.  In my mind, he got it right, and saw the big picture.

Just thinking about the industry, technology and other advances made from the discoveries and research from that era alone, it’s hard for me to look upon the Apollo program as a waste of effort or treasure.  Jobs and industries were created.  People created things and set in motion concepts and ideas that are still bearing fruit in our daily lives.

My contention has been that, despite the success of the Space Shuttle program, we have essentially sat on our laurels, though, and wasted the momentum brought on by Apollo.  We should’ve been figuring out a way to step off this frail little blue marble, and becoming the explorers that we once were as a people.  That next step beyond the Moon, or even the International Space Station, is big, and is probably more than any single country on the planet can undertake alone.  And there’s the rub.  We can’t all stop yelling and throwing stuff long enough to band together as a people — all people — and take a single step together, much less the many that it would take to continue exploring above low-Earth orbit.

I know my view of this is Pollyannic — I get that.  But the twists and turns of the last few decades have left us creating a really big “have and have not” consumerist society (and I’m guilty, too … just ask Becky), and in my view, we’ve lost sight of our roots as explorers and creators.  We’ve continued to be highly polarized — both on the international and internal playing fields — and it’s paralyzed any movement forward on exploring space, and all the wonders that it could bring to mankind.  It’s made all of us protective of our stuff and ideas, suspicious of others, and unwilling to share, regardless of the consequences.

Yes, things continue to be invented, some of which are unnecessary or are unnecessarily expensive, but aren’t things of profound impact.  In the industrialized world, we haven’t been able to get ourselves away from fossil fuels in any kind of appreciable fashion, and continue to soil our fragile little nest every day.  The poor still don’t get the health care and food they need, even in relatively wealthy nations.  And who knows if a child that dies from some simple malady in a third world country could’ve been the next Einstein, Salk, Sagan, Ghandi, King…

So, yes, I’m thrilled about Orion, and the fact that a foundational block has been laid to further the cause of manned exoplanetary voyages.  It’s a step.  There are so very many more that need to be taken, and an awful lot of them have very, very little to directly do with the exploration of space.